Mitochondrial Genetic Structure and Matrilineal Origin of White Sharks in the Northeastern Pacific

paper3Published online on 01. June 2015

Mitochondrial Genetic Structure and Matrilineal Origin of White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, in the Northeastern Pacific:
Implications for Their Conservation

Erick C. Oñate-González, Axayácatl Rocha-Olivares, Nancy C. Saavedra-Sotelo,
Oscar Sosa-Nishizaki


White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias, WS henceforth) are globally and regionally threatened. Understanding their patterns of abundance and connectivity, as they relate to habitat use, is central for delineating conservation units and identifying priority areas for conservation. We analyzed mitochondrial data to test the congruence between patterns of genetic connectivity and of individual movements in the Northeastern Pacific (NEP) and to trace the matrilineal origin of immature WS from coastal California and Baja California to adult aggregation areas. We analyzed 186 mitochondrial control region sequences from sharks sampled in Central California (CC; n = 61), Southern California Bight (SCB; n = 25), Baja California Pacific coast (BCPC; n = 9), Bahía Vizcaíno (BV; n = 39), Guadalupe Island (GI; n = 45), and the Gulf of California (GC; n = 7). Significant mitochondrial differentiation between adult aggregation areas (CC, GI) revealed two reproductive populations in the NEP. We found general concordance between movement patterns of young and adult WS with genetic results. Young sharks from coastal California and Baja California were more likely born from females from GI. Mitochondrial differentiation of young-of-the-year from SCB and BV suggests philopatry to nursery areas in females from GI. These results provide a genetic basis of female reproductive behavior at a regional scale and point to a preponderance of sharks from GI in the use of the sampled coastal region as pupping habitat. These findings should be considered in Mexican and US management and conservation strategies of the WS NEP population.

Journal of Heredity (2015), Advance Access, doi: 10.1093/jhered/esv034



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